As our minor league teams’ seasons come to a close, I will try and get to a season review for everyone, but more importantly, take a look at some of the players on these teams that will be worth watching going forward. While records matter very little at the Rookie League level, this season the GCL Tigers earned a playoff spot, winning their division. Unfortunately, the playoffs were short lived for the Tigers, losing 1-0 in the one game semifinal. Still, it was the most successful season for the GCL Tigers in quite some time, both in terms of potential and winning games.
There is quite a few players to go through here, so I will get right to it.
Let’s get to the basics first. Lopez is going to turn 22 in December, and has a good pitchers frame. Given his age, Lopez is going to have to start to move quickly, so a promotion to West Michigan in 2013 at the very least has to be in order. This might be a case of an older pitcher taking advantage of some young, but Lopez was probably the GCL Tigers best pitcher down the stretch. In June, his ERA was 4.97. In both July and August, Lopez posted a sub 2.00 ERA with strong walk and K ratio’s. Overall, Lopez posted an ERA of 2.32 and struck out 57 in 54.1 innings while walking only 12.
Perez might even be more intriguing than Lopez. Why? Well, he offers the same kind of intriguing frame at 6’3″ and 180lbs, but he is turning just 19 years old in December. Like Lopez, Perez also got better as the year went on, which is an encouraging sign for a youngster. In 4 August starts, Perez posted an ERA of 1.86, striking out 19 batters in 19.1 innings. Overall, he posted an ERA of 4.24 while striking out 43 batters in 46.2 innings. Perez is going to have to improved command as he moves up the ladder, but we should see him in Connecticut next season.
Thompson, the Tigers 2nd round pick in June, has looked fantastic to start his Tigers career. In 7 starts with the GCL Tigers this summer, the big righty posted an ERA of 1.91. In 28.1 innings he struck out 31, walked just 10, and posted a very strong ground ball rate while holding hitters to a .149 BA. Given his status as a high draft choice, I am sure with a strong spring next season, he could pitch his way into the mix for a rotation spot in West Michigan at the age of 19.
Ehlers was a prized draft choice a couple years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays going in the 8th round. Unable to sign him, Ehlers went in the 20th round to the Tigers this past season, and were able to sign the talented lefty this season. Ehlers because of signing relatively late didn’t pitch much, but did look good in the innings he got. In 16.1 innings this season, Ehlers struck out 16, but only allowed 9 hits and 3 walks. His ERA for the season was 1.10, and he produced 2 ground balls for every fly ball. Ehlers doesn’t turn 21 until the end of October, and should get a shot at West Michigan to start the season next year.
Josh Carr and Nick Carmichael both had strong seasons for the GCL Tigers, but they appear to be more organizational arms than true prospects. Both are big guys, and the Tigers might be better off converting both to relievers and see if they can get a little more velocity out of them in the pen. Both are 22 years old, and will be 23 either this off-season or early into the 2013 season.
Solano has a good pitchers frame, and at 20, still has some potential for growth and to add to an already good fastball. However, the secondary pitches lag behind at this point, making Solano pretty hittable. He does throw strikes, but needs to work on throwing quality strikes. In 43 innings, Solano struck out 33 batters, and posted an ERA of 3.95.
Felix doesn’t have tremendous stuff, but he is the owner of a good fastball, and could be a fast mover up the ladder. The 2012 draftee does come right after hitters, which is a good trait to have. In 35 innings with the GCL Tigers, Felix struck out 29 batters, but walked just 8. His 4.11 ERA wasn’t impressive, but he got better as the season went on, and won’t turn 21 until next year.
Valdez was the closer for the GCL Tigers this season, and did a fine job. Valdez consistently pumps low to mid 90’s fastballs, and gets some swings and misses with his breaking ball. In 22 innings, Valdez struck out 28 batters, allowing hitters to bat only .188 against him. Valdez collected 15 saves, but will have to be a fast mover for the Tigers. He is 22 years old already, and turns 23 before the start of the 2013 season.
Castro heads the list of what is an interesting group of infielders. A 2nd baseman with an above average hit tool, Castro has some athleticism and some room for physical growth as well. Defensively, he can be a little rough at times, but should improve as time goes on. Castro hit. 311 with an OPS of .763, and did that as an 18 year old. He doesn’t turn 19 until the end of November. Castro doesn’t walk much at this point, but doesn’t strike out a lot either. He also stole 15 of 18 bases.
Ustariz is a corner infielder who isn’t going to be known for his glove, but there is some potential there for the bat. The 19 year old right-handed hitter has hit at every level so far, and his 2012 season was much of the same. Ustariz posted a batting average of .282 this season, compiling an impressive .379 OBP. He walked 26 times, while striking out 25 times, which is a good marker for the future. There isn’t a ton of power there, so Ustariz is likely going to have to stick at 3rd to have some positional value.
Delgado is a big SS, which would leave me to believe at some point his future might be 3B, though he is reportedly a strong defender. Delgado his just .236 this season, so there is a ways to go with the bat, but he does offer intriguing power potential. At just 20 years old heading into the 2013 season, he is one worth watching though.
Gonzalez is a light hitting middle infielder, who plays both SS and 2B. His future looks like an utility infielder, but there are some things to like here. While he hit just .243 this season, Gonzalez did walk 22 times while striking out 20. Born in 1993, he doesn’t turn 19 until the off-season, so he has time to develop the bat further. He is small at 5’9″, so there is never likely to be power, but he is worth tracking.
There is some potential with the bat for Soledad, but his limited defensive ability, and lack of power at this point for a 1B is likely to make things difficult for him.
What is there to say about the Tigers third round pick other than he had a really strong start? Schotts hit .310 with the GCL Tigers despite a late season slump with an OPS of .812. That doesn’t mean there isn’t things for Schotts to work on. Defensively, he moved to CF and has to learn playing the position. Offensively, he is going to have to cut down on his strikeouts. Good power and speed combination though. Excited about his potential.
Gibson had an ugly year in 2012. He hit just .167, but at times flashed some of the tools that people liked coming out of high school in 2011. He stole 18 bases, did show a good amount of patience with 30 walks, but struck out a ton as well. It may take some time with Gibson, but it is way too early to give up on him.
There are several guys in the GCL outfield that have really good athleticism, but have a long way to go to become baseball players. You could put Gibson in that group, but guys like Rashad Brown, Ismael Salgado, and Miguel Paulino have talent. They just need to be shown how to play baseball. The Tigers are going to have to develop these guys, but they offer some intriguing athleticism.